How MOOCs Could Reform Education Completely by Accident

When we saw the first reports about MOOCs and lack of  completion, many of us were not surprised.  We were also not surprised to see the demographic statistics – more than half of the learners in most courses had undergraduate degrees, and a large percentage had masters degrees and many even higher.  This article from The Atlantic discusses something that may be happening subliminally (or purposefully) – my suspicion is that teachers don’t think “I’m going to do some professional development now” or “I’m going to watch a master teacher teach my class” as this article suggests.  I do think that getting new ideas for classes is important, and both teachers and professors are probably  participating in MOOCs for that reason, to a degree.

I would also propose that they participate for the social aspect – to meet other educators and like minded people who like to learn.  I wrote an article in Medium over a year ago making an analogy between MOOCs and large scale online games (MMORPGs) because I saw learning as enjoyable for this population, much like games.

It’s a good article, and worth reading.

“What jumped out for me was that … as many as 39 percent of our learners [in MOOCs overall] are teachers,” said Isaac Chuang, one of the study’s lead researchers. In some of Harvard’s MOOCs, half the students were teachers. And in “Leaders of Learning”—a course out of its Graduate School of Education—a whopping two-thirds of participants identified as such.

via How MOOCs Could Reform Education Completely by Accident – The Atlantic.

Blended Learning, Digital Equity, Skills-based Economy

When I started reading this article by Jim Shimabukuro, I didn’t agree with its premise.   “Still, he states, the biggest problem with blended approaches, innovative or not, isn’t as much its effectiveness but its impact on completely online courses.”    No, I thought.  That’s not right.  Blended courses  are, in terms of efficacy research, optimum but really modality and delivery should not matter at all.  A course is a course – it’s the pedagogy that matters.  Whether a course is online or face to face – the same problems and challenges exist.  Good learning is good learning.   And then he said, when referring to blended learning:

“This seemingly innocuous perception is arguably the greatest impediment to the development of completely online courses and programs. The F2F imperative, whether 20 percent or 1 percent, instantly eliminates the possibility of disruption that defines online learning. In other words, the door for nontraditional students who cannot, for whatever reason, attend classes on campus remains closed. ”

And that statement is absolutely right.  Even when an online program has a small residency component, there are some people who will not be able to participate.  In terms of quality of course, modality doesn’t matter.  Access is a different story.

 

via Blended Learning, Digital Equity, Skills-based Economy | Educational Technology and Change Journal.

Are you Ready to Teach Online? Readiness Surveys Aim to Help Faculty Prepare

Excellent article from Debbie Morrison discussing the instruments we have available for assessing faculty readiness to teach online.    Penn State and University of Washington both have surveys, but Debbie adds some of her ideas.   The article, with link at the bottom, shares good ideas.

A. Parasuraman’s Technology Readiness Index is an interesting indicator as well, though not originally intended for online instruction.

1.  Technology and Social Media Skills: Technology skills are fundamental, and though social media skills not an essential, they enhance the instructor’s ability to connect with students. Skills include: ♦ basic computer skills ♦  proficiency with software applications ♦ installing/updating software and plug-ins ♦ internet search literacy ♦ proficiency with features and functions within the LMS including uploading files, grading tools and grade book ♦ LMS tools for asynchronous/synchronous communication ♦ familiarity with platforms for communication/engagement outside of LMS, e.g. Pinterest, Twitter, Google+

2.  Administrative and Organization Skills: Includes skills such as time management e.g. ability and willingness to respond to student questions with immediacy e.g. within  24 hours ♦ provide constructive feedback on student assignments in timely manner ♦ proficiency with grade book and ability to submit grades by required ♦ monitor/follow-up with academic integrity issues

3. Pedagogical Skills and Teaching Approach: ♦ student focused learning model ♦ instructor focus on supporting and guiding learning not delivering content and instruction ♦ providing constructive feedback ♦ establishing and sustaining online presence

via Are you Ready to Teach Online? Readiness Surveys Aim to Help Faculty Prepare | Online Learning Insights.

5 Tech Implementation Challenges for Teachers

EmbarassingThe mechanics of technology integration, as well as the adoption of any new pedagogical paradigm, involves change.  With change comes the unexpected, which we can’t always prepare for.  We can do all the social learning and lay as much groundwork as possible, but we don’t usually anticipate some of the basic hurdles.  This article from Edudemic articulates what many of us have experienced.

 

“In all the excitement around what technology can do for education, the frustrations of the teachers faced with using it often get drowned out. Even educators who embrace the idea of using more technology with their students have found that it brings its share of challenges. And many of them feel powerless to address those challenges on their own.”

via 5 Tech Implementation Challenges for Teachers | Edudemic.

Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official

Digital credentials, such as badges or other open credentialing, are discussed in this NYT article which frames the traditional diploma as opaque.  What does it mean?  The work done for the degree is not apparent, the quality or what differentiates a job applicant from many others. “Diplomas and transcripts provide few means of distinguishing the great from the rest….”  Digital credentials can solve the problem, as they are more specific and can related directly  to necessary work competencies.   They are transparent and provide much more information about what was involved in achieving the credential.

I agree with the points made in the article.  I’m just not sure how fast a change like this can happen.  There are some industries that might be more likely to shift their mindset and adapt to digital credentials, but there are far more that have been using degrees and schools as a preliminary filter for many years.  It would require an entire education of the HR industry to understand what these new credentials mean, how to utilize the transparency, the power of  online learning – even traditional degrees earned online still carry stigma – and what digital artifacts and assurances of learning really portray.  There are many sides to new types of credentialing – educating the schools, the students, and the people who will ultimately hire them.

 

“Most important, traditional college degrees are deeply embedded in government regulation and standard human resources practice. It doesn’t matter how good a teacher you are — if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, it’s illegal for a public school to hire you. Private-sector employers often use college degrees as a cheap and easy way to select for certain basic attributes, mostly the discipline and wherewithal necessary to earn 120 college credits.”

via Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official – NYTimes.com.

Signs That Virtual Reality Is on the Verge of Taking Off

Virtual reality, along with its potential, has been around for years.  While there were some apps that took advantage of its “wow” factor early in development by pointing us to the closest subway or restaurant through our smartphones, the rich applications have always required the use of a bulky pair of goggles.  These have not been lightweight goggles!  As researchers of education, we found them in university engineering labs but potential was never realized because of its cost and bulk.

Once Oculus Rift, a virtual reality company created for gaming was acquired by Facebook, development accelerated.  Other companies entered the commercial space.  The goggles are getting more lightweight.  Learning will see some incredible applications in the near future – this may be bigger than anyone anticipates.  It’s not just about gaming.

From the New York Times, “READY or not, here comes virtual reality.

Gaming was the focus of the original Oculus Rift headset, the virtual reality viewing device that set off the recent wave of interest in the technology. But now companies like Samsung, movie studios and Silicon Valley start-ups are racing to create new types of video experiences for virtual reality — and in some cases, even the cameras they will need to film it.”

via Video Feature: Signs That Virtual Reality Is on the Verge of Taking Off – NYTimes.com.